Saturday, 23 June 2012

Dorset & Normandy - Day 1

Our first day of vacation started at a fairly reasonable 8:30 taxi pick up to take us to the train station. Our taxi driver was rather more colourful than normal (a bit testy, probably from being up all night, but made rather ineffectual efforts to amuse), but we made it to Waterloo with plenty of time to spare. This let us pick up a few bits and pieces forgotten in the midst of last minute packing. The train ride to Portsmouth was uneventful and although with each additional stop we picked up more and more people clearly intent on camping. Considering it was raining off and on we really should have guessed it was for the Isle of Wight Festival. But the signs in Portsmouth tipped us off in the end. Considering the forecast for the weekend, I was pleased our plans included sleeping indoors.

We found the car rental place with ease and our upgrade turned into something of a mixed blessing as the trunk was rather less spacious than the hatch-back originally planned for, but we managed to fit in all four suitcases plus the four of us with a little creative space management. We didn't linger long in Portsmouth, instead heading straight out into the countryside. We chose a route to Swanage that took use straight through the New Forest, someplace that Stephen and I have been wanting to visit for a while, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. A bit of googling popped up The Oak pub just outside of Lyndhurst, which seemed an ideal stop for lunch and a leg stretch. The setting was stunning and the service friendly. It was a Fuller's pub, so didn't have anything local on tap, but what they did have was well kept and reliably tasty. Lunch offerings had some surprisingly creative touches - wild mushrooms sauteed in garlic with rosemary ice-cream, baked camembert with blueberries, scallops and shrimp with bacon served over mixed lettuce with a citrus vinegrette, pork belly with mushrooms and creamed leeks, wild rabbit over gnocchi. They even served proper loose leaf tea, brewed in individual pots. We lingered over lunch, starting to catch up on all that's been happening in our lives since Christmas, and then decided to take advantage of the lull in the rain to head off on a little walk before getting back into the car. The walk wasn't remarkable in and of itself, but the air had a delightful heady freshness and the forest was a vibrant green. We caught glimpses of the famous New Forest deer, but none of the ponies, sadly.

Then back in the car with us for the rest of the journey to Swanage. It was fascinating to watch the landscape change from New Forest lushness to the scrubby grasslands and rolling fields nearest the sea. The closer we got the more excited we all became, ready to explore the Coast.

After arriving and settling into our lovely B&B (The Castleton - highly recommended), the rain had just stopped again and so we headed into town to see what there was to be had for dinner. Unfortunately for us the weather didn't hold out quite as well as in the New Forest and we quickly found ourselves rather damp, and my spirits at least followed. We grabbed a snack and beer in the back room (away from the televisions) one of the little local pubs to wait out the worst of the rain. After another lull we headed back out, walking up to the nearest look out point over the village, and then back into town to see what there was food wise. I love the way the light lingers this time of year, but it does mean that it can get quite late without you realising it. Fortunately for us, a little Italian place was still open and accepting new orders, so we had a really pleasant light, late meal and some more good conversation. At just gone 10pm we finally headed back to our B&B by way of the sea front, listening to the waves and starting to let the more relaxed pace seep in. Sleeping well proved not to be a problem. :)

All in all, a pretty good first day. I was particularly pleased that we managed to break-up the drive so well, and that our B&B proved just as homey and comfortable as I hoped. I think it is going to be a great base for the next couple of days.

You can read Cherrie's post and see some of her pictures of our first day here

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